[Review] Them: The “Angry” Young Them (1965)

The band’s first album vaunted Them into the front ranks of the R&B invasion, led by an angry, young Van Morrison.

Kronomyth 1.0: And the Van comes on the radio.

Them were Northern Ireland’s answer to The Rolling Stones, which would make Them an answer to a question few were asking. After all, the world had The Who, The Animals, The Kinks and countless other bands to indulge their teenage daydreams of rebellion. Yet none of those bands had a lead singer who could match Mick Jagger’s wide-mouthed white punk so naturally and convincingly. Van Morrison wasn’t copping Jagger, they were cut from the same cloth: wonderstuck by rhythm and blues, wild boys whose savage breasts could only be tamed by that seductive muse, rock and roll. And so a certain faction of teenagers rallied around Them as the next great white hope.

They were, like most of their contemporaries, a product of their time, with the emphasis on product. The labels played up the band’s antisocial image, the usual R&B suspects were lined up (“Bright Lights, Big City,” “Route 66”), professionally penned tunes were provided (“I Gave My Love A Diamond,” “I’m Gonna Dress In Black”), session players brought in to help out. None of that, however, distracts from the powerful presence of Morrison; whether he’s singing or wailing on the harmonica or sax, Van is a one-man gale. That’s not to say that the rest of the band doesn’t have talent; my original interest in Them, in fact, was their organ player, Pete Bardens (of future Camel fame). The band’s chemistry is clear on songs like “Mystic Eyes” (a Top 40 hit in the US), and if the production is a little messy (the Stones recordings sounded much cleaner), it gives their music a raw energy all its own.

Despite the UK habit of separating singles and albums, The “Angry” Young Them reprised the earlier B side, “Gloria,” pure musical genius, that. (The US version, simply titled Them, added the recent hit single “Here Comes The Night.”) While nothing else on the album is a match for those two tracks, quality material from Morrison (“If You And I Could Be As Two,” “You Just Can’t Win”) and scorching cover versions (their spin on Rosco Gordon’s “Just A Little Bit” is downright menacing) put it right in the front ranks of the English R&B revolution. Yes, you could argue that’s it all just a clever copy of the Stones, but that Van was the genuine article is clear on every track.

Original LP Version

A1. Mystic Eyes (Van Morrison)
A2. If You And I Could Be As Two (Van Morrison)
A3. Little Girl (Van Morrison)
A4. Just A Little Bit (Rosco Gordon)
A5. I Gave My Love A Diamond (Bert Berns)
A6. Gloria (Van Morrison)
A7. You Just Can’t Win (Van Morrison)
B1. Go On Home Baby (Bert Berns)
B2. Don’t Look Back (John Lee Hooker)
B3. I Like It Like That (Van Morrison)
B4. I’m Gonna Dress In Black (M. Scott/Howe)
B5. Bright Lights Big City (Jimmy Reed)
B6. My Little Baby (Bert Berns/Wes Farrell)
B7. (Get Your Kicks On) Route 66 (Bobby Troup)

US LP Version (Them)
A1. Here Comes The Night
A2. Mystic Eyes
A3. Don’t Look Back
A4. Little Girl
A5. One Two Brown Eyes
A6. Gloria
B1. One More Time
B2. If You And I Could Be As Two
B3. I Like It Like That
B4. I’m Gonna Dress In Black
B5. Route 66
B6. Go On Home Baby

The Players

Peter Bardens (keyboards, organ), Billy Harrison (guitar), Alan Henderson (bass), John McAuley (drums, piano, harmonica), Van Morrison (vocals, harmonica, sax). Produced by Tommy Scott/Philip Solomon A5/B1/B2/B6 by Tommy Scott, A3 by Bert Berns and A6 by Dick Rowe musical director: Arthur Greenslade.

The Plastic

Released on mono and stereo elpee on June 11, 1965 in the UK (Decca, LK-4700), the US (Parrot, PA-61005/PAS-71005), Australia (Decca, LKA 4700) and Germany (Decca, SLK-17029P); reached #54 on the US charts.

  1. Re-issued on elpee in 1968 in Japan (London, SLC-506).
  2. Re-issued on elpee in 1973 in the UK (Deram).
  3. Re-packaged as Them First on elpee in 1978 in Japan (London, GFX-2028).
  4. Re-issued as Them First on mono elpee in 1982 in Japan (London, L20P-1062).
  5. Re-issued as Them First on elpee in 1988 in Japan (London, L18P-1267).
  6. Re-issued as Them on compact disc and cassette in 1988 in the US (Deram, 820 563-2/4) feat. UK track listing.
  7. Re-released on remastered compact disc in 1998 in the UK (Deram, 844 824-2).
  8. Re-released 180g vinyl elpee in 2016 in Europe (Exile/Sony Legacy, 8875160711).

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